A friend, Katherine Shecora, posted a link to an article on Dave Ramsey’s site about along with her own excellent commentary. I started to comment on her post, but my remarks got so long that Facebook wouldn’t let me post the comment. Then I was going to write my own Facebook post, but as I was doing it, I realize that it has been far too long since I posted anything to my own blog, and this would really be better here anyway.
Let me just say right up front that I’ve never liked Dave Ramsey. I think he’s a self-righteous asshat. I know that lots of people swear by him, but I think his methods are too simplistic and dismiss many of the barriers to success that people who are truly poor or in abusive situations have to deal with, not to mention those with chronic illnesses and other issues.
So — on with these supposed habits of the rich. I have some questions regarding Ramsey’s claims. Where did he get these figures? What sort of methodology was used? How many people were surveyed, by whom, and what are the credentials of the people doing the study? What is considered “wealthy” and “poor” for the purposes of this study? Where is this study published? Is it peer-reviewed?
Ah — Ramsey got his information from another “guru” making a living selling advice on how to get rich, Tom Corley. I didn’t find wherever it is that Corley makes all the claims that Ramsey cites, but I found, thanks to someone else’s blog post. It’s possible that the rest of the claims are in Corley’s book, and I’m certainly not about to buy it to find out. Corley talks about “statistical data” and says, “I spent five years studying the daily habits of over 200 wealthy people and over 100 poor people. I tracked over 200 activities that separate the wealthy from the poor.” The study supposedly resulted in his book, Rich Habits — The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals.
So no, there are no peer-reviewed data here. And he isn’t a scientist of any sort, nor does he have any training in doing sociological research. He’s a CPA. He doesn’t give any information that I could find on his methodology or definitions. Very sloppy. There were a total of approximately 300 people involved in the study, but it doesn’t say that they were all involved for five years — just that he was doing his “research” (I use that term loosely) for five years.
So, let’s get on with these habits that supposedly set the rich apart from the poor!
- “70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.”
How is “junk food” defined here? Convenience foods? Fast food? Anything other than the sort of organic, gluten-free, free-range, non-GMO stuff you have to go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to buy for mucho dinero, then have the knowledge, resources, and time to prepare? (That’s assuming you can GET to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s since they aren’t in poor neighborhoods.) If you haven’t already done so, please go read Linda Tirado’s wonderful article, This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense. And let’s be honest here — by “gambling” we’re talking “buying lottery tickets” right? The only people I know who buy those regularly are at least middle class, but I don’t go around asking people about their gambling habits, to be honest. The one person I know who had an online gambling addiction would have been upper-middle class. Poor people don’t usually have computers and internet access, and there aren’t that many legal ways to gamble in most of the country.
- “80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.”
What constitutes a “single goal” here? Survival, as Katherine pointed out? Getting your kids raised safely? How about keeping a roof over your head, or keeping your job so you can do that? I guess the only things that count as “goals” by these guys’ standards are things like “make partner within X years” or “buy a vacation home”?
- “76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.”
The truly “wealthy” don’t have to work, so of course, they have time to do aerobic exercise four times a week! They can afford personal trainers, too, not to mention gym memberships. Far more of the “poor” have physically demanding jobs, have to spend extra time getting to and from work because they don’t own their own vehicles, work more than one job, can’t afford ANY extra childcare in order to spend time at a gym IF they could afford a gym membership, and certainly can’t afford personal trainers!
- “63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.”
Audible is great! But how many of the poor can afford audiobooks? Borrow them from the library, you say. Well, more and more library branches are being closed everywhere — it isn’t as if libraries were the highest priority in most county budgets in the first place. Branches in poor areas are often closed first. Even when they aren’t closed outright, their acquisition budgets are sliced to ribbons. But let’s say our poor people are able to get access to a library that has audiobooks available. Okay, SOME of them have smartphones on which they could listen to audiobooks if the books are the right kind — I don’t know about your library, but mine has a lot more of the older books on CD than Overdrive audiobooks that you can download to a smartphone. If you don’t have your own car, you can’t listen to those so easily. If you don’t have your own computer and technical know-how, you can’t rip them for listening on your phone (of course, doing that is of questionable legality anyway). That’s assuming you have a smartphone or other mobile device on which you can listen during a commute. Some people don’t have them, particularly poor people.
- “81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.”
I call bullshit on this one. Seriously? I’m just not believing it. To-do lists, grocery lists, chore lists, you name it — I know plenty of people who certainly aren’t WEALTHY who make lists ALL the time. Does it only count if they’re on dead trees or something?
- “63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.”
See above regarding libraries. Also — HA! I want to see proof that these rich kids actually READ two non-fiction books a month. Is this stuff actually required by their private schools? I am a BIG fan of reading, and the encouraging thereof, but I don’t think anybody can effectively “make” kids read anything and have it do any good.
- “70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% of poor.”
I’m calling bullshit again. Was there any proof of this supposed volunteer work? Was it time spent at church, or some sort of actual service to the community? I can tell you how I was spending my hours as a child/teen — being forced to go to church every time the doors opened. Taking care of siblings. Housework. Going to my own jobs (multiple). How many rich kids have to work, take care of younger siblings, or clean the house?
- “80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor.”
Birthday calls, really? Did they count other forms of contact, or only phone calls — are those somehow magical? Did anybody consider that some of the poor DON’T HAVE PHONES??? Or that they might need to use asynchronous communication due to the difficulty of making contact due to their work schedules?
- “67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor.”
How can the wealthy write down their goals, multiple, when item two says that 80% of them are working towards a SINGLE goal? Does writing a goal down invoke some kind of magic?
- “88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor.”
It’s a lot easier to find time to read if you have leisure time in which to do it and access to relevant/interesting reading material! So we have the library/money issue again, in addition to the time issue. How many of those “wealthy” people are just spending time online, anyway — are they actually reading in a directed manner, or just surfing, as most people do? (Most of the poor don’t HAVE internet access.)
- “6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.”
This is one of the things that make me say “HA!” I just don’t believe it was a question on a survey. The wealthiest people I’ve known were VERY outspoken! The poorest were far more afraid to speak up! I think this item is supposed to imply that poor people are poor because they don’t know when to shut up, when it’s appropriate to be outspoken, or how to use tact.
- “79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.”
Again, the wealthy have far more time to devote to such things than the poor do — and they are generally in professions that benefit far more from doing so. If you’re doing menial work, networking doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. You don’t improve your work at the fast-food joint by networking with other burger flippers or cashiers.
- “67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.”
I bet they spend every bit as much or more screen time, though. The poor are just less likely to have computers and internet access.
- “6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.”
The wealthy have access to a greater variety of entertainment, so they aren’t stuck with the crap that’s broadcast. What percentage of what’s on broadcast television anymore IS reality TV, anyway? The few times that I’m exposed to it, it all seems like reality shows. How much time are the wealthy spending using smartphones, tablets, computers, and other devices? How much time do they spend watching other things on television?
- “44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor.”
How many jobs are the poor working? How many hours of sleep are they actually getting? Again, I refer to Linda Tirado’s article, in which she said, “Rest is a luxury for the rich.”
- “74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% of poor.”
What kind of “good daily success habits” are we talking about here? How to make it to payday/the end of the month when there isn’t enough to eat? How to fix all the things that don’t work in the crappy place you can afford to live in because the landlord sure as hell won’t do it? How to reduce your chances of being a victim of crime in the shitty neighborhood you have to live in? How to read transit maps and figure out how to get to school/work/the store/the clinic? How to take care of family members ranging in age from infancy to old age? How to do the budget dance to try to keep all the utilities turned on?
- “84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% of poor.”
That isn’t even a sentence. I don’t know what they’re trying to say. Do they think their good habits created their opportunities/“luck”? I think that in most cases, they inherited capital, or at least got a solid start and good education that gave them those opportunities and “luck.” Yes, good habits can help — but nobody does it alone.
- “76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% of poor.”
- “86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement vs. 5% of poor.”
How many of the poor had a decent education to start with? How many of them were given any reason to think that education had ANY value? How many of them have had any real opportunity to get a good education? How many educational opportunities are available to the poor? They certainly have far less time than the wealthy do to spend on self-improvement, and a hell of a lot less money to spend on it.
- “86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.”
I wonder how many of those poor are truly literate? I wonder what we would see if we compared the schools in which they were educated to the schools in which the wealthy were educated? I know, personally, that you CAN get a decent education in a shitty school — but you have to work at it harder, and you need SOME sort of support, somewhere. You also need some kind of encouragement to develop a love of reading. You need access to reading material at some point. You do realize, don’t you, that some schools don’t have libraries — things that many people take for granted in their schools? (I attended one of them.) How are the kids in those schools supposed to develop a love of reading with NOTHING TO READ? I’m also wondering how many of these people report that they “love to read” but haven’t actually picked up a book for leisure reading in years, or couldn’t discuss a book to save their lives (I find that’s often the case with people who claim that they “love to read”).
Overall, NO. Just no. The entire thing reeks of self-righteous bullshit and a poorly-designed set of questions that don’t prove anything other than that the person who came up with this stuff doesn’t understand a bloody thing about science or statistics. But it certainly gives the people who want to do so lots of excuses to sprain a muscle while patting themselves on the back.